Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Puttanesca-Inspired Tomato Sauce with Kale and Carrots

I am really not a fan of the premise of such cookbooks as Deceptively Delicious, which advocates fooling one's children into eating healthy food by sneaking vegetables into recipes. I think I would have been a picky child in any case, but that kind of subterfuge coupled with techniques like setting the timer on me to finish my meal, made a bad situation far worse and I've only started to recover from it in the last decade or so. Lying to those I feed doesn't really work for me. That said, I never minded it when my mom put wheat germ in the chocolate chip cookies because there was never any secret about it. It was there, I liked the cookies, end of story.

It is with this latter attitude that I share an innovation on the already-simplified puttanesca sauce I published in November. In that recipe, I recommend cooking the greens in the pasta water and serving with the pasta and sauce. This is still a great technique to make your pasta water do double duty.

However, though Elspeth is still a wonderful eater, we do find that she can be challenged by too many textures in one dish, especially now that she's spooning it up herself. I wanted to find a way to retain the greens, but ensure that she could happily eat the whole mess of ingredients with no troubles.

My new technique is even simpler and fuller of good stuff! What I did this time was to use my food processor on half a bunch of lacinato kale until it was very fine. Then I finely chopped 5 or 6 small carrots in the food processor. I did them separately to ensure that each vegetable was evenly chopped, but you could try combining them and see if the end result is uniform enough. I added both of these vegetables to the garlic and olives and cooked them for several minutes before adding the tomatoes and proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

The final sauce is less 'saucy', so I added a few spoonfuls of the pasta cooking water (after the pasta was cooked) to help integrate it. I made no other changes to the proportions of ingredients and served the sauce, as usual, on whole wheat penne.

Because the original recipe wasn't exactly unctuous or luscious in texture, I don't feel there was a huge sacrifice by adding the kale and carrots. The deep green flavor of the kale is very nicely offset by the sweetness of the carrots, which also act to balance the tanginess you can get with the brine left on the olives or the tomatoes.

It was a hit for the whole family and we'll definitely be changing our standard technique to this one.

5-6 cloves garlic
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 c. pitted kalamata or mixed olives (or to taste)
1/2 to 1 bunch greens (kale, chard and spinach all work well), washed
5-6 small to medium carrots
1 28 ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes, diced tomatoes or ground tomatoes (I never use the kind that have basil or any other flavoring in them, though you may like to)
Small pinch red pepper flakes or to taste
Fresh ground pepper
Enough whole wheat spaghetti or penne pasta for your family for 1 or 2 meals (we like lots of greens so though the sauce lasts 3-4 nights, we often make pasta and greens every night or every other night)

INGREDIENTS FOR A CROWD (or to fill the freezer)
8-10 cloves garlic
2 TBSP olive oil
2 c pitted kalamata olives
1 large bunch greens, washed
4-6 large carrots, washed and cut into large pieces
2 qt or 2-3 large cans diced tomatoes or homemade tomato sauce
Small pinch red pepper flakes or to taste
Fresh ground pepper

  1. Place a large pot of water on to boil, covered, on high heat
  2. Chop the garlic (use a full sized food processor if you have one)
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil
  4. Add the garlic to the skillet and coat with the oil; cook for a few minutes
  5. While the garlic is cooking, dump the pitted olives into the food processor and pulse until finely chopped (but not a paste)
  6. Add the olives to the skillet and stir well
  7. Add the red pepper flakes and some ground pepper
  8. Process the greens until fine; stir greens into the skillet and cook for a few minutes
  9. Process the carrots until finely ground; stir into the skillet and continue cooking for a few minutes
  10. If using whole or diced tomatoes (anything but ground), process them in the same food processor until very fine--I like to use the tomatoes ground up this way because I feel it makes a thicker, more luxurious sauce than having chunks of tomato with somewhat watery juice)
  11. Add the tomatoes to the skillet and stir; bring to a simmer then turn the heat to low and stir occasionally
  12. The pasta water is likely to be boiling now
  13. Add the sea salt and then the pasta and cook pasta according to package directions and your taste. Save some of the pasta water to add to the sauce for texture, if desired
  14. The sauce should be about done now, too. Taste and adjust the seasonings. You may wish to add some balsamic or red wine vinegar, more pepper flakes or ground pepper
  15. Serve up pasta and sauce and enjoy

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